Over the years, coconut oil has come a long way, starting from being a humble kitchen staple to now being a versatile all-natural beauty product. Its use originated in the tropical parts of the world, where coconuts are available in abundance. The natives began using coconut oil for their skin since they were of the firm belief that it offers good protection against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Today, this oil is not only used as a natural hair conditioner but is also used by beauty experts around the world to moisturize skin and solve a variety of skin problems.
Does coconut oil have any side effects though? Will continuous use affect our skin in any way? Can someone with oily skin use coconut oil as well without having to worry about breakouts? Let’s find out.
What Is Coconut Oil?
In order to understand how coconut oil works in maintaining the health of our skin, we need to take a look at its constituents and their respective properties first.
Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil. Traditionally, it is made by extracting the oil from either dried coconut kernels or raw coconuts. It is solid in cold temperatures, but when heated, can soften and even melt.
About 65% of coconut oil is made of medium-chain fatty acids, which are basically a form of saturated fat. The fatty acids contained in coconut oil include:
- Lauric acid: 49%
- Myristic acid: 18%
- Caprylic acid: 8%
- Palmitic acid: 8%
- Capric acid: 7%
- Oleic acid: 6%
- Linoleic acid: 2%
- Stearic acid: 2%
Additionally, coconut oil also contains small amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats. One tablespoon of pure coconut oil contains approximately 12 grams of saturated fat along with 1 gram of unsaturated fat.
Is Coconut Oil Good For The Skin?
It is natural to be a little apprehensive about applying oil to the skin. One might have some initial thoughts about oil clogging facial pores and leading to oily skin texture and acne. However, coconut oil is remarkably different compared to other beauty products such as mineral oil. It doesn’t contain any extra water or petroleum by-products which are usually responsible for the clogging of skin pores. Instead, coconut oil works gently to hydrate and soften the skin by seeping deep into the cells. Coconut oil also helps to strip away all kinds of dirt and dead cells from your skin, thus giving you a healthy, glowing complexion.
Benefits Of Using Coconut Oil On The Skin
Listed below are some of the reasons why coconut oil is so sought after to help maintain skin health.
- Reduces Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is the major cause of a large number of skin disorders like contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema. Coconut oil helps to improve the antioxidant status in the skin. These antioxidants work to stabilize free radicals, thereby neutralizing reactive atoms that contribute to inflammation. Interestingly, studies have found that coconut oil is not only anti-inflammatory but can relieve pain as well.1
- Treats Acne: Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids that make it anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. This works in favor of fighting acne breakouts and keeping the pores of the skin dirt-free.
- Can Moisturize Dry Skin: Studies have proven coconut oil to be great for keeping your skin hydrated and soft. Because of this property, it can also be very effective in treating eczema – a skin condition that comes with symptoms of dry, scaly skin and rashes.2
- Can Help Heal Wounds Faster: By keeping your skin well hydrated, coconut oil helps your skin preserve its function to act as a barrier to keep out harmful microorganisms. The antimicrobial function of the fatty acids in coconut oil helps to prevent infection and aids in increased levels of collagen, an important protein.3 This further speeds up and contributes in the process of wound healing.
What If I Have Sensitive Or Oily Skin?
While many people have celebrated the effects coconut oil has had on their skin – it is important to be aware that different skin types may react differently to it.
For instance, those with naturally oily skin ought to avoid coconut oil as it may block skin pores and cause a nasty case of blackheads.
If you have sensitive skin, try applying a little amount on a small patch of skin before going all out. This way you’ll be able to test if it works well for your skin. Eating foods cooked with coconut oil doesn’t lead to any side effects, so those with oily or sensitive skin may consider this as an option to take advantage of the many benefits this oil has to offer.
What Type Of Coconut Oil Is Best For Application On Skin?
Coconut oil is not as simple and straightforward a product as you may think it to be. The market is rolling out endless varieties of brands and types of coconut oil, and choosing the best kind for your skin may seem a bit of a challenge.
There are 3 main types of coconut oil namely:
- Unrefined Coconut Oil: This is coconut oil that is extracted from fresh coconut meat through methods like quick drying or wet-milling. Either of these processes preserves all the naturally occurring polyphenols and phytonutrients in the coconut oil intact.
- Refined Coconut Oil: This is coconut oil that is extracted from already dried coconut meat through physical extraction methods. It contains a lot of chemical solvents and needs to be purified through refining. Hence, this type of coconut oil is going to be lacking in many of its beneficial nutrients.
- Liquid Coconut Oil: This type of coconut oil is one that comes without its natural lauric acid content. What’s remaining is two other medium-chain fatty acids, and comes with a much lower melting point.
Studies confirm that virgin coconut oil may be much more effective than refined coconut oil when it comes to neutralizing harmful free radicals and preventing oxidation, which could potentially damage your cells and cause inflammation and disease.4 5 Therefore, if you’re looking to buy coconut oil for your skin, always go for the virgin variety. If you’re looking to buy coconut oil for cooking purposes, however, you may choose refined coconut oil for it can withstand high temperatures and won’t lose its beneficial nutrients.
The Final Verdict
Coconut oil has indeed, been proven to cure a lot of skin conditions and is well-known for being a catalyst in maintaining good skin health. For those with oily or highly sensitive skin, take care to do patch tests so you can slowly assess your skin’s tolerance for this oil. Alternatively, you may even consult with your dermatologist for advice before you start using coconut oil for your skin.
|↑1||Intahphuak, S., P. Khonsung, and A. Panthong. “Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil.” Pharmaceutical Biology 48, no. 2 (2010): 151-157.|
|↑2||Verallo-Rowell, Vermén M., Kristine M. Dillague, and Bertha S. Syah-Tjundawan. “Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.” Dermatitis 19, no. 6 (2008): 308-315.|
|↑3||Nevin, K. G., and T. Rajamohan. “Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 23, no. 6 (2010): 290-297.|
|↑4||Nevin, K. Govindan, and Thankappan Rajamohan. “Wet and dry extraction of coconut oil: impact on lipid metabolic and antioxidant status in cholesterol coadministered rats.” Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology 87, no. 8 (2009): 610-616.|
|↑5||Marina, A. M., Y. B. Che Man, S. A. H. Nazimah, and I. Amin. “Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 60, no. sup2 (2009): 114-123.|